Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted on Friday the fate of the former Greek Orthodox church of Hagia Sophia is an internal matter for his country and that therefore no one else can opine about it.
Erdogan added that any reaction outside Turkey to the issue of whether or not to turn the Hagia Sophia into a mosque was an outside interference in his country’s internal affairs.
“Making such accusations against our country with regard to Hagia Sophia is tantamount to a direct attack on our sovereignty,” Erdogan was quoted as saying during the foundation ceremony for a new mosque in Istanbul, named after Hayreddin Barbarossa – the 16th-century Turkish corsair and later admiral who established the naval domination of the Ottoman Empire in a large part of the East Mediterranean.
His remarks came in response to concerns expressed in recent days by several countries and international bodies over any decision to turn the historic cathedral from a museum and UNESCO World Heritage site into a mosque.
Earlier, the spokesman of the ruling AK Party, Omer Celik, denounced Greece over the fact that there is no operating mosque in Athens, and accused it of pursuing a state policy to destroy Ottoman monuments.
At the same time, in Athens, the foreign ministers of Greece and Cyprus, Nikos Dendias and Nikos Christodoulides, met to discuss the next steps, given the forthcoming EU meetings of foreign ministers and leaders.
The two men discussed the possibility of resuming negotiations on the Cyprus issue, especially after the relevant initiatives that seem to have been taken by Berlin. Dendias stressed that Turkey is deaf to Europe’s invitations to comply with international law, regarding its intentions to conduct exploratory activities within Greek waters. He said that if Turkey entertains the idea of “turning Greece into an island within a Turkish lake or sea, it can forget it.”